Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogathon 04: Secret War

[Discussed in this post: Secret War #1-5.]

If you want to see Bendis's dream Avengers, I think you should look no further than Secret War: Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Daredevil, Black Widow, Luke Cage... with some Nick Fury and Daisy Johnson thrown in for good measure. That group doesn't look at all like the Avengers Bendis would put together, does it?

Secret War was a five-issue mini that suffered some serious scheduling problems, but is fairly important as it takes Nick Fury off the board as Director of SHIELD and introduces us to Maria Hill as his replacement. In many ways, this is where Bendis's larger story begins. I honestly don't remember/care when these issues shipped in relation to New Avengers, but I place the events of the 'present' as taking place sometime in the six months between Avengers Disassembled and New Avengers: Breakout.

Told in two time periods, now and one year ago, Secret War has Fury discover that the tech-based criminals are being funded by an outside source that he tracks back to Latveria and the new government that was put in place by the United States post-Doom. Fury wants to take the Prime Minister down, the President says they'll handle it quietly and diplomatically. Fury takes it upon himself to put together a group and goes to Latveria, and they fight all of the tech-based villains and Fury kills the PM by bringing the entire castle down on top of her via Daisy Johnson's earthquake powers.

In the present, those involved with the mission are attacked -- Luke Cage is in critical condition, Captain America fights off his attackers, Daredevil and Spider-Man take out DD's, and Wolverine survives his... except none of them remember the mission. During a fight that eventually grows to include numerous other heroes, villains and a resurrected Latverian PM... they save the day and Fury reveals the truth before dropping out of sight. He's a wanted criminal now, having ducked the political fallout once before, and Maria Hill is now Director of SHIELD.

Secret War plays to Bendis's strengths: a compelling story grounded in real characters told in a slow series of reveals. I think it's him at his best. There are quiet character moments, big loud explosions, and everything in between. I also love his Fury. His Fury comes off as the guy he's supposed to be: the best spy in the world. Would Nick Fury sit back and wait for diplomacy to save lives? The hell he would! He'd take the bad guys down, because that's what he does, damn what the politicians think. Does he care about betraying the superheroes' sense of trust? A little, but not as much as he cares about saving lives.

One of the best scenes is when they finally close in on the Latverian PM and Fury tells Johnson to bring the castle down, because that's how you send a message. If they wanted her dead, there are easier ways than a huge frontal assault... but you need to send a message that when you fuck with SHIELD, you get killed in a big horrible way.

Nick Fury plays on a different level from everyone else and this story illustrates that clearly.

Gabriele Dell'Otto does the painted art here and it's gorgeous. A variety of colours indicating flashbacks are used. His actual drawing skills are also quite good. Very stylised, but it works for this sort of grounded story. The only panel I kind of hate is one in the final issue where Maria Hill yells at Daisy Johnson. It's so absurdly over the top... but, Dell'Otto does some fantastic work here.

Included in the trade (and the issues) are a lot of bonus material -- transcripts of conversations and Nick Fury's files. Work a look.

The content/promise of content ratio here is good since a lot happens here, while also setting up a new status quo. It's actually the right amount of balance you want from this sort of book. You don't finish it and think that everything was just set-up, but rather that it's the natural result of the story you've read. Nick Fury makes a decision and these are the consequences. Done.

This story raises a question I have about SHIELD: what the fuck is it? It's a supposed United Nations-funded world peacekeeping organisation that... is staffed primarily with Americans, answers to the President of the United States, operates out of US ports primarily, and, later, enforces US law within the United States. In what world does a UN-funded organisation behave that way? My god. I fucking hate SHIELD and the way it's written. I'll address this point several times throughout the day, don't worry.

In 30 minutes: The Pulse: Secret War.

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